Nowadays, photo/video cameras with 16 megapixel image sensors are considered high-end, but it is only a matter of time before they are completely surpassed, especially with DARPA on the case.
As morbid as it sounds, military applications are usually a few steps ahead of the consumer technology development curve.
The photo and video camera industry segment is of particular concern, since surveillance has become very important in recent years.
As such, even though cameras seldom get better than 16 megapixels or 20+ megapixels on the consumer front, the military is already testing gigapixel-class
In fact, DARPA
(The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) has completed tests of a 0.96-gigapixel and a 1.4-gigapixel model.
The two were developed as part of the AWARE program, short for Advanced Wide FOV Architectures for Image Reconstruction and Exploitation.
As early prototypes, they will likely not be used much, other than as starting points for future devices.
Nevertheless, they are promising steps towards the ultimate goal of AWARE: to create high-end but compact imaging technology usable both on ground and air level.
No longer will special units or large armed forces be forced to rely on bulky equipment in need of a special truck to be moved from one place to another. Gigabit-class cameras will deliver similar performance and image quality while being small enough for any one person to carry and use.
The aforementioned cameras don't fit this vision, because they are two-and-a-half feet square and 20-inch-deep (508 mm, more than half a meter). In fact, they are not cameras per se, but sets of 100 and 150 smaller cameras combined with a spherical objective lenses.
The technique is called “parallel multi-scale micro cameras” and forms a wide field panoramic image in a similar fashion to how a parallel supercomputer
divides performs a myriad of tasks at the same time.